Cost-effectiveness and cost-utility of an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy intervention vs. a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy intervention for older adults with anxiety symptoms: A randomized controlled trial

Maartje Witlox, Vivian Kraaij, Nadia Garnefski, Ernst Bohlmeijer, Filip Smit, Philip Spinhoven

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Background A previous randomized controlled trial in older adults with anxiety symptoms found no differences between a brief blended Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention and brief face-to-face Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) regarding anxiety symptom severity at posttreatment and 12-month follow-up. A health-economic evaluation comparing these interventions has not yet been conducted. Objective This study examined the one-year cost-effectiveness and cost-utility of blended ACT compared to face-to-face CBT for older adults with anxiety symptoms. Methods The economic evaluation was embedded in a randomized controlled trial comparing blended ACT to CBT in 314 older adults with mild to moderately severe anxiety symptoms. Data were collected at baseline and 3, 6 and 12 months post baseline. For the cost-effectiveness analysis, treatment response was defined as a reliable improvement in anxiety symptom severity (measured with the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7) between baseline and 12-month follow-up. To assess cost-utility, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were computed using EuroQol-5 Dimensions-5 Levels-5 utility scores. Analyses took the societal perspective, including both healthcare costs and productivity costs. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were calculated using 2500 bootstraps of seemingly unrelated regression equations of costs and effects. Sensitivity analyses were performed to assess the robustness of the findings. Results Differences between the blended ACT group and CBT group in treatment response and QALYs were statistically insignificant and clinically irrelevant. The ACT intervention was associated with an average per-participant cost reduction of €466 ($593) compared to CBT, which resulted from lower productivity costs in the blended ACT group. From a healthcare perspective, the ACT intervention was associated with higher costs (by €71 ($90)) than CBT. Conclusions The results do not indicate that from a health-economic perspective blended ACT should be preferred over CBT in the treatment of older adults with anxiety symptoms. The findings support a model of shared decision making, where clinicians and patients collaboratively decide on the preferred intervention, based on ethical-medical, practical and personal considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0262220
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

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